Midweek Muse: Raise a Glass to the most important goal in Carlisle’s history

It’s one of the most famous goals in English football history and made household names of Carlisle United and Jimmy Glass, the goalkeeper who played only three games for them, in 1999. Tom Simmonds looks at how the stage was set for Glass to make his entrance.

Carlisle are drawing 1-1 with Plymouth Argyle at Brunton Park in a game they need to win to preserve the league status they have held for 70 years. A corner kick in injury time of a game they need to win to save themselves, is hoisted into the mixer in blind hope. Cumbrians’ defender Rob Bowman gets his head to it. It’s not a bad header – on target but straight at Plymouth’s goalkeeper Adam Barrett – who parried it back into the danger zone. This enabled Glass to steal in and sweep the loose ball into the net, with a degree of composure typically not associate with a keeper in that situation.

This condemned Scarborough, whose fans were prematurely celebrating on the pitch in the aftermath of a 1-1 home draw with Peterborough, to relegation instead of Carlisle. If this game were played in the days of two-up two-down from the Football League, there would also have been no platform for Glass’s heroism as both clubs would have been relegated. Hartlepool, the team to finish 22nd that season made a move away from being bottom of the league at the end of March to surviving relatively comfortably courtesy of four wins and two draws from their final eight games. The fact one of those wins was a 3-0 victory over Scarborough, also did a bit to ensure that it was a straight battle between them and Carlisle to survive.

If you look at it on paper, it’s surprising Carlisle were pitched so deeply into the mire. Their home record was fairly solid (eight wins, eight draws and seven losses) and they only lost by a three goal margin once all season – ironically, to Scarborough. Compare this with Scarborough’s 26 losses out of 46 league games, it’d be natural to think one team a lot worse than the other and not necessarily in direct competition.

Drawn games are ultimately what Carlisle’s survival came down to. Both clubs were at either end of the extreme, Carlisle’s 16 will have contained plenty of moments that would have left their fans thinking ‘if only that chance had have gone in, there’d have been no need for Jimmy’. Scarborough, on the other hand, only drew six games all season which explains why they did run Carlisle so close.

Even though Scarborough did manage to pick up 14 wins, their failure to not turn just two of those 26 defeats into draws cost them. They displayed an alarming capacity to go on huge losing streaks, losing five in a row in April in addition to two blocks in December and January. Looking at it like this, it’s impossible not to conclude that Carlisle probably deserved to survive on the balance of their season overall. Yet it is ironic that a team whose relative solidity and reputation for drawing games should preserve their league status by averting another draw in such a dramatic fashion.

What followed immediately for Carlisle were six campaigns enveloped in misery. They only finished above 22nd in the basement division of their next season, dropping into non-league in 2004. However, they did get promoted at the first time of asking before winning the League Two title in 2005-06, heralding an eight-year stay in League One.

Scarborough’s tale since is a sad one. They were never able to get back into the Football League and were caught in an irreversible downward spiral that led to the club being liquidated in 2007. The club was reborn as Scarborough Athletic and are currently grounds haring with Bridlington Town playing in the eighth tier.


Read more from Tom here

Follow Tom on Twitter at @TallulahOnEarth

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